Advice on distutils and distribution policies

Magnus Lycka lycka at
Mon Nov 21 20:08:24 CET 2005

Mardy wrote:
> Hi,
>   I've built a small project ( which I'm actually
> trying to package using distutils.
> However, I don't know if this directory layout is suitable for
> site-packages, since at a first glance it looks to me that datafiles might
> not be welcome under it. Is it so?

In general, it's a good idea to keep code and data separated:

  - Different people might need to access code and data. People who
    add content to a web site shouldn't be able to make a mess of the
    software that controls that web site (or vice versa).
  - Lifecycles are different, so different backup strategies might apply.
  - Directory structures such as /usr under unix are typically fairly
    static on production systems, and there might be assumptions that
    required space doesn't grow over time, whereas data, kept under
    /var is expected to change more over time. Also, if e.g. web content
    is kept in a separate disk partition, filling that partition won't
    mess up other parts of the computer system.
  - It should be easy to upgrade the software without messing up data.
    It's practical if it's safe to e.g. do
    "rm -rf /usr/lib/python2.3/site-packages/eligante" followed by
    a new "python install" in case a sys admin thinks that
    his old install was broken.

For a CGI-based app on e.g. a linux box with Apache, I think it would
be typical to partition things like this:

In an apache cgi-bin directory: The main Python CGI script(s) that
are called by the web server. These might be scripts that are modified
as a part of the installation process to e.g. point out data files.
These should be short files. Import a module, set up configuration
and run something in the imported module.

Under /usr/lib/python2.x/site-packages/ you keep the bulk of your
software (as described above).

HTML and CSS files that are to be handled directly by the web browser
is placed under Apache's DOCUMENT_ROOT etc. E.g.

Data files that are read and processed by you own programs (i.e. not
directly by the web server) van be anywhere under /var, e.g.

> In that case, where should I move the .html files, and how should I access
> them from inside python?

Asolute path defined by an environment variable?

I think Apache defines a DOCUMENT_ROOT variable. You
could decide that your HTML files etc should reside in
some particular place relative to DOCUMENT_ROOT, and
use something like...

import os
SUB_FOLDER = 'my_folder'
dir = os.path.join(os.environ['DOCUMENT_ROOT'],SUB_FOLDER) locate your files.

As I wrote above, hardcoding in a main CGI-script is also
common practice.

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